Monday, May 14, 2012

Saturday's Long Run

This past week has been an epic one for my training. 9h 38m of running with about 43 miles for the week (all but 9 miles on technical trails). 5471.4+ / 5457.1- ft of elevation change.

For my long run on Saturday, I did 19.77 on highly technical trails out at Cameron Park.

Here's my post from DM. And the graphs and charts from RunningAhead.

And, now, here are some notes from my private journal (oooooooohhhhhhhh! yes, yes. very personal.):

It was so freakin' amazing to be out there today. I could have spent all day on the trails. So good for the soul. So good.
What went well:

  • Used Timex intervals for hydration/nutrition and salt. BONUS: It was great to be able to just focus on the run and let the pace and distance fall into the background. Still picked all that info up with my Garmin (which was stowed away in my pack).
  • Perpetuem. No gastric issues at all and I seem to be able to handle about one gel flask with 2 scoops per hour. May be worth looking into Vitargo, but this stuff works like a charm. 
  • Saltstick caps!!!! One every hour was great, but maybe every 30 minutes would be better? 
  • Water. Ultraspire Surge was BOSS! Drank about 20 oz per hour (maybe 25), which was fine in the 70ยบ temp. Probably could have handled more - and thus should try more.

Not so well: 

  • Should have drank more at the beginning of the run (first 2:20).
  • Spent too much time at the aid stations (15 minutes each time). I need to be aiming for 60 seconds or less.

Lessons learned: 

  • On these long efforts you MUST be patient. If you got out too fast or pick things up too much to early you'll blow up and add hours to your time. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. I did this very well today.

I'm learning a lot out there on the trails and feel fantastic—except for a nagging issue I've had with the second toe on my right foot. I've been to my Airrosti doc several times for it and will be going to see one of the sports DO's that works with Baylor athletes today to rule out a stress fracture, neuroma, etc. 

Dakota Jones on his Epic Win at Transvulcania

Dakota Jones on his incredible win over Killian at the Transvulcania 2012. Check out the entire interview over at iRunFar. I've included one of my favorites from the interview. For such a young runner, Dakota has a really great perspective.

"Of course, I like being the center of attention. Who doesn’t? But if it was like that all the time, if I had to be around that every time I ran, I’d go out of my mind. I run because I like to run and the fact that it gets a lot of attention is really cool but it’s not going to change me. I think that’s actually the point. As I get older and I have more successes, people give me more attention. I’m afraid as people tell me so many times that I’m an amazing athlete and an amazing person that I’ll start to believe them and be a d—. I don’t want to be a d—. I just want to be a good guy and keep it in perspective. It’s really nothing more than just running a lot."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lessons from Pandora

Behold, some of the lessons I learned in Pandora's Box of Rox this past weekend. Take note. Actually, there's nothing new here. In fact, I already knew all this myself going in... But now that I've experienced the utter suck that occurs when you fail to do some of these things, they have a bit more pop to me now.
  1. Listen to aid station workers. They know what they are doing and have your best in mind. You may not like there advice, but they may see things a bit more clearly than you do—especially late in the race.
  2. Don't forget to thank the aid station workers and race volunteers. They have taken time out of their busy lives to serve others and help them reach there goals. High fives and sweaty hugs are welcome.
  3. Start early and don't get behind on nutrition and hydration. Start early. Don't get behind. Once you get behind, it's REALLY hard to come back. Really hard.
  4. Spray yourself with ice water to keep cool. For me, this means also taking a hydration pack so you always have enough water. drink it all. Every time. I'm not sure about the physiology here, but if you can keep your skin cool from an external source (spraying cold water), it seems that you may reduce your sweat rate, which is ALWAYS a good thing. Either way, you'll enjoy life more with cold water all over you in really hot conditions. 
  5. Eat plenty of salt/electrolytes! For me, that will probably stay in the form of Saltstick caps (not Endurolytes, which don't have nearly enough sodium for those super hot days—unless you take agillion of them).
  6. Don't be afraid to call it day when it's time to call it a day. no need to suffer aimlessly. live to run another day. but in the mean time, go party at the start/finish and celebrate those who had better days than you did. there are few problems at that stage that a cold beer and new friends can solve
  7. Don't go out too fast. Start slow and then slow down some more, for at least the first 1/3 of the race. Maybe more. Go out too fast and the minutes you saved by dropping a pace that is 2-3 minutes faster for a few miles may cost you hours if blow up.
  8. Match your training to the course and the conditions. Trails? Rocks? Hot? Then get in those conditions for at least the 3 weeks leading up to the race, preferably much further out though.
  9. Have fun. If you stop having fun, figure out why and fix it. If you can't fix it, ask yourself why your still out there. If you can't give a compelling reason, consider dropping. I didn't have that view before Pandora, but I'm there right now. We run because we enjoy it; when we stop enjoying it, it's time to call it day and try again tomorrow. Now, this doesn't mean that you might not suffer immensely while enjoying the run. Suffering and joy are not by any means incompatible. But if there is no joy, why keep going? There are too many runs and too many races to stumble around in your own tears, sweat, and spit....unless you are still enjoying yourself, that is.
  10. Embrace the pain; embrace the suck.
  11. Soak up the community. I'm convinced that some of the very best people in the world are in the trail running community. They are more than happy to help, share stories, and encourage. Great folks. Don't let those opportunities pass you by.
  12. When things get their worst, don't forget to stop and soak up all the beauty, not only on the course but in the community. As people take care of you, who have suffered alongside you, simply because—at that moment—you are in the worst shape... when that happens, remember to receive that love. Let it soak in. Then give it back to others once you get better.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Learning from Low Valleys in the Hill Country

Pandora's Box of Rox 2012 May 5, 2012

Rachel and I arrived at Reveille Peak Ranch right before they quite handing out packets on Friday night at 7pm. The pavilion was awesome and there were already signs of the good times to be had on the morrow (meaning, people were already sipping beers and there was talk about bringing enough for everyone—what's a trail run without beer?!). Rachel and I went back to the hotel room and got ready for bed. I made the last minute decision to go with my Brooks PureGrits that have about 500 miles on them. They are the most comfortable shoes I own, even if there aren't much under foot. I would bring my Rogue Fly's just in case.

Loop 1
The race started promptly at 7am, and we were off. I decided to go out strong for a mile or so then real things in (right....). Just wanted to see what things were like at the front. I quickly found out. At the front... things are too fast for me. But here's the trouble. As a bonehead newbie to this sport, it was hard to slow down once you speed up. At least at the very beginning, everyone was behind me and we were running on single track. Was I really supposed to slow down and step off to the side so that everyone could pass through?!?! (Yes, that's exactly what I was supposed to do, but I didn't break until the heat broke me 5 miles later...). After the major climb on rock dome structures (which I hiked, as planned), I was already getting dehydrated. I only had a 20 oz bottle and aid stations were 3 miles apart. It was getting hotter (in the mid 80s at this point) and I wasn't taking in enough salt. Endurolytes are great, but they don't have a ton of sodium in them. I enjoyed the aid station fare and rolled into the last aid station of the loop (mile 13) only to find another runner, Gary, who was having pretty irregular heart beat. It was really hot now (90+ / ~98 heat index). I stopped to see if I could help—at this point they were still trying to settle on a diagnosis, and (I'd like to think that) my medical background came in handy here. I left Gary with the aid station staff and headed toward the turnaround, coming through mile 13.1 at 2:54. I had done a lot of walking beginning at mile 7 (I was headed downhill quickly remember?). 

During Loop 1 I had spoken with more than one runner who thought I was crazy for signing up for the full marathon and suggested that, given the problems I was having, calling it a day at the half would be a great decision. But I thought I could pull through, grab enough water and be fine; I had five hours left after all!

At the start/finish aid station, I dropped my ultra spire spry race vest and took off my shirt. Rachel — my expert crew chief and smoking hot wife — was on hand with everything I needed, including a change of socks and my Rogue Fly's. Those rock domes destroyed my old PureGrits (and the feet that was in them). I left in good spirits after giving Rachel a big sweaty kiss (you're welcome, babe).

Loop 2

Loop 2 began fantastically, but I started to completely unravel on the climb over the rock domes. I snagged a bit more sunscreen and water from a aid station runner serving as a roving aid station and some salt from another runner, but it was really all to no avail. I didn't realize it at the time but I was fighting a battle that, given the conditions, my lack of heat training, and lack of adequate water and salt supply (20 oz handheld wasn't enough for me that day). So I suffered. A lot. I won't sugar coat things here. I really have never experienced anything so abysmal as some of the thoughts and feelings I had on that second loop. The temperatures had risen to 95 with a heat index of 110, maybe more on the rock domes, and by the time I shuffled in to the aid station at mile 21, I had the following symptoms (I emailed the aid station worker for the list :):

1.       Cool Clammy face;
2.       Warm body temperature with no visible sweating;
3.       Confusion;
4.       Lack of eye and pupillary response to visual cues.

Bad news, people. Severe dehydration and some level of heat exhaustion. Here's the trouble. See symptom #3? I was out of my mind. I told the aid station workers, "I got this, I'm fine! I can do this." One of them, David, gave me his hydration belt, which probably saved my life. And I took off for the next aid station... 3.5 miles away. Big big big mistake. By mile 23, I was really scared that I was going to collapse out on the trail. After over seven hours of "running," I was in the back of the line. No one was coming. When would they find me? What about Rachel? What the hell had I done?! Then I found Diane, another runner who was having a tough time out there. She seemed pretty rough. I talked her into moving again (she had been sitting in the shade waiting for help) and we started walking out together. Then suddenly I took a nose dive and was the one in worse shape. Fortunately, she stuck with me and wouldn't leave me behind. 

Ten or so minutes later, the race winner, Neal Lucas, an all around great guy, was working the final aid station and had started back down the trail to find us. Once he found us, he refilled our water and checked us out; we seemed ok, so he ran back to tell the others. Then I vomited. Sort of. Nothing came up—though I had JUST had about 40 oz of water. Great. 

I finally stumbled into the aid station at 24.5 and called it quits (plus I missed the cut off). Everyone there was wonderful and took great care of me, even the other runners who DNF'd after nearly 8 hours in gruel temps. What a fantastic community. It took sitting in the shade with ice on my neck and lap, drinking 60 oz of fluid over one hour before the nausea subsided. The real remedy came when Joe picked us up and offered us all some ice cold Tecate—that beer has never tasted so good. 

When I got back to the start/finish line, I jumped in the pool immediately. Frank, the guy who diagnosed me with dehydration and heat exhaustion came over to check on me. He had been really worried. Over the next hour I spoke with Frank and his ultrarunning daughter, Jenn, about nutrition, hydration, and heat acclimation. Jenn has even offered to be a mentor of sorts for me while I find my place in trail/ultrarunning. Awesome!

The whole experience was really humbling. Now that several days have passed, I am actually grateful that it all happened—since I didn't die and all. I'm making learning from my mistakes first priority and will turn each of them into my strengths. Soon, I will have nutrition, hydration, and heat training down to the nth degree. Until then, I'll be patient, recover well, and trust my training. I've got great people around me to make sure that I meet and exceed my goals. 

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose.

See you on the trails!

- Mike